21 January 2008

Operation Miracle Restores A Million Eyesight

More than a million patients from 31 countries of Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa have recovered their vision after the intervention of Operation Milagro (Miracle), a free ophthalmologic programme launched in 2004 by Cuba and Venezuela.

At the close of 2007, Operation Miracle “made possible operations on 1,328,000 patients in 49 ophthalmologic centres in 31 countries in three continents,” said Juventud Rebelde (Cuban youth paper), stressing that the programme foresees “intervening surgically by 2016 on 6 million with sight problems”. The official (Cuban) newspaper, Granma, said the programme had “49 ophthalmologic centres, 82 surgical positions and 876 professionals”.

Medical associations and institutes of countries like Bolivia, Uruguay and Honduras have protested against the presence of the Cuban doctors… but the Cuban government projects the social aim of the programme and claims that those who criticise Operation Milagro are the ophthalmologic “rich”.

Thousands of Venezuelans arrived to the island to be operated upon, which allowed Cuba to pay for the petroleum imports from Caracas with its professional service. Venezuela supplies petroleum at preferential prices while Cuba has the option of repaying it with professional service in health, education and sports.

La Jornada editorial: The devoted work by the Cuban and Venezuelan governments through Operation Miracle is praiseworthy for several reasons. It constitutes a display of international solidarity and recognition of the social conditions that prevail in the least developed countries. The principal beneficiaries of the programme are people – in their majority adults – of countries whole public health systems show great deficiencies and limitations… where private medicine, for its high costs, is inaccessible to large sections of the population.

It is to recognise, moreover, the fact that Cuba and Venezuela direct an important quantum of public resources to education, training and developing technology in the field of medicine. The case of Cuba is particularly praiseworthy…we should salute the efforts of the Cuban doctors in areas where adverse logistical, economic and social conditions persist.

Something that needs to be drawn to attention about the functioning of Operation Miracle is that it practically do publicity, contrary to what happens in the majority of governmental programmes in Mexico, above all something with such popular acceptance as this.

The Latin American School of Medicine: More than 4,500 students from some 30 countries have graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Havana, Cuba. Conceived by Fidel Castro, the project was developed as an answer to the terrible hurricanes, George and Mitch, which lashed Central America in 1998 and left in its wake a large number of victims and incalculable material damage.

After the arrival on February 27, 1999, of the first Nicaraguan students, the facilities of the one-time Granma naval academy, in the west of the Cuban capital, was transformed into ELAM, which was inaugurated by Fidel, in the presence of other heads of state, on November 15 that year.

The project prepares the students to return to their communities to provide attention primarily to health and continue the preventive and promotional work of the Cuban medical brigades in the area. With approximately 1,500 admissions a year, the school will turn out between 1,200 and 1,300 specialists in medicine, who will contribute significantly to the the integration of the (Latin American) people.


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